Undefeated Henny Hughes, First Samurai Clash in Hopeful

A field of five juveniles has drawn in for Saturday's 101st running of the prestigious Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. Annexed last year by dual classic winner Afleet Alex, undefeated Henny Hughes and First Samurai lead this year's cast postward.

Though both Henny Hughes and First Samurai are grandsons of the legendary Storm Cat, Henny Hughes, owned by Darley and trained by Patrick Biancone, appears to have the advantage on paper.

Untested in his three outings, Henny Hughes boasts a combined win margin of nearly 25 lengths.

Bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm, Trackside Farm and CHO, Henny Hughes has two stakes wins to his credit--the July 4 Tremont at Belmont Park and the July 28 Saratoga Special (gr. II). The colt has been working like a runaway train over the main track, posting two bullets and a near-bullet in a (5f, :59.65) drill Tuesday morning.

By 1995 Hopeful winner Hennessy, and out of the Meadowlake mare Meadow Flyer, the royally-bred colt was a $180,000 Fasig-Tipton July yearling and a $370,000 RNA at Barretts spring 2-year-olds in training sale. He was sold privately to Darley after his first two wins.

Henny Hughes and regular rider Gary Stevens drew the four post with only Winning Minister to his outside. They seek to add significantly to the colt's $176,820 in earnings.

The good news for Spa patrons is that Bruce Lunsford and Lansdon Robbins III's First Samurai is well-bred, well-trained, and ready for a solid challenge. A private purchase, the Frank Brothers trianed colt went unsold at the 2004 Keeneland September yearling sale when the bidding stopped at $380,000.

Bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther, the son of Giant's Causeway  out of the Dixieland Band mare Freddie Frisson has two wins to his credit, including an Aug. 7 allowance at Saratoga. The colt worked there nicely (4f, :47.46) Aug. 19 and should be the main competition.

Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey, aboard for the allowance win, gets the call again from Brothers for a trip from post two. First Samurai has been out front early in both wins.

Stakes-placed Tizzy's No Saint, and Too Much Bling complete the field. All entrants will shoulder 120 pounds.

Hopeful Stakes (gr. I), Saturday, Aug. 27, 2-year-olds, seven furlongs, $250,000.

PP--Horse, Trainer, Jockey

1 -- Too Much Bling, Bob Baffert, Javier Castellano
2 -- First Samurai, Frank Brothers, Jerry Bailey
3 -- Tizzy's No Saint, Mario Zacco, Cornelio Velasquez
4 -- Henny Hughes, Patrick Biancone, Gary Stevens
5 -- Winning Minister, Bob Barbara, Richard Migliore